cover image Hot Rod Hamster

Hot Rod Hamster

Cynthia Lord, , illus. by Derek Anderson . Scholastic Press, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-545-03530-9

The metallic cover of Lord’s (Rules ) first picture book, along with the image of the hamster hero waving a checkered flag, will draw readers inside this clever, rhythmic story. When a hamster decides to find a junkyard car to enter in a race, it must choose its car, tires, and so on, and readers are asked for their input (“Smooth wheels, stud wheels, driving through the mud wheels,/ Fat wheels, thin wheels, take her for a spin wheels./ Which would you choose?”). The answers, however, aren’t always readily discernable from the text or illustrations. When the hamster is racing against bigger competitors (“Stare face, scowl face, frowning grouchy-growl face.... Which would you choose?”), it answers, “GRRR. I’m built for speed!” Anderson’s (the Little Quack books) acrylic artwork is consistently action filled and comical. Full of entertaining details, the illustrations of the enthusiastic hamster, the wary bulldog who owns the junkyard, and miscellaneous mice and rats that appear develop the characters in ways that the exuberant text does not. Still, when it comes to kid appeal, the book’s interactive format should get impressive mpg. Ages 2–6. (Feb.)